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Diocese can see sexual abuse claims filed during bankruptcy case


by Sheryl Kornman of Tucson Citizen

Federal bankruptcy judge James Marlar will allow the Tucson Catholic Diocese to look at confidential allegations of sexual abuse by church clergy filed during the diocese's Chapter 11 case.

He approved the diocese's request to examine the filings Nov. 24.

Susan Boswell, the diocese's chief attorney in the Chapter 11 matter, said the diocese wished "to clarify protocol for proofs of claim filed under seal" and for "pleadings filed by claimants alleging sexual abuse by individuals associated with the diocese."

Proofs of claim are monetary claims to the bankruptcy court of injury by the diocese. Claimants have until April 15 to file them.

The diocese asked the court for permission to view the documents as they come in, rather than at the end of the claim period.

Diocesan attorneys said they want the diocese to be able to notify the Pima County attorney "to enable appropriate law enforcement investigations of sexual abuse allegations."

Under the agreement approved by Marlar, diocese lawyers and the Pima County Attorney's Office agree to keep the claims confidential "except to the extent necessary to carry out their duties under applicable law."

It could not be determined late yesterday if any new claims filed in the bankruptcy matter have been reported to the county attorney for investigation.

At a hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court yesterday, Marlar said he asked Boswell to keep him informed on the matter.

No one at the hearing objected to the change in protocol.

As expected, Marlar approved a settlement plan for three Yuma brothers, who say they were repeatedly molested by the Rev. Juan Guillen. Yuma is in the Tucson diocese.

Guillen pleaded guilty to one count of attempted molestation of a child and is in prison.

The amount of damages the three brothers will be paid won't be determined until after all claims are reviewed. But the deal approved yesterday provides that no claimant will be paid more than those three.

The boys are now 15, 17 and 20 and still live in Yuma, where their mother resides. She has two other sons.

She is dying and awaiting an organ transplant, according to the family's attorney, Jerry Schelley of Yuma, in the abuse case.

"The mother is terminally ill," Schelley said yesterday after the hearing. "She's always wanted to survive long enough to see the end of this."

"She wants to be supportive to her boys but she is afraid she won't survive until the end," he added.

The Chapter 11 case is expected to continue for at least six months and perhaps up to a year.

Kathy Green, of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, issued a statement at the hearing condemning the agreement with the Yuma teens, who agreed to waive their right to a trial.

She said in the statement church officials should not "require already wounded men and women to sign away any of their constitutional rights. It is immoral for church officials to in essence coerce ... crime victims to relinquish their options and their rights."

Lynne Cadigan, a Tucson attorney also representing the Yuma brothers, said the agreement to settle the matter without a trial is in their best interest.

No one objected to the settlement agreement in open court yesterday.

He approved the diocese's request to examine the filings Nov. 24.

Susan Boswell, the diocese's chief attorney in the Chapter 11 matter, said the diocese wished "to clarify protocol for proofs of claim filed under seal" and for "pleadings filed by claimants alleging sexual abuse by individuals associated with the diocese."

Proofs of claim are monetary claims to the bankruptcy court of injury by the diocese. Claimants have until April 15 to file them.

The diocese asked the court for permission to view the documents as they come in, rather than at the end of the claim period.

Diocesan attorneys said they want the diocese to be able to notify the Pima County attorney "to enable appropriate law enforcement investigations of sexual abuse allegations."

Under the agreement approved by Marlar, diocese lawyers and the Pima County Attorney's Office agree to keep the claims confidential "except to the extent necessary to carry out their duties under applicable law."

It could not be determined late yesterday if any new claims filed in the bankruptcy matter have been reported to the county attorney for investigation.

At a hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court yesterday, Marlar said he asked Boswell to keep him informed on the matter.

No one at the hearing objected to the change in protocol.

As expected, Marlar approved a settlement plan for three Yuma brothers, who say they were repeatedly molested by the Rev. Juan Guillen. Yuma is in the Tucson diocese.

Guillen pleaded guilty to one count of attempted molestation of a child and is in prison.

The amount of damages the three brothers will be paid won't be determined until after all claims are reviewed. But the deal approved yesterday provides that no claimant will be paid more than those three.

The boys are now 15, 17 and 20 and still live in Yuma, where their mother resides. She has two other sons.

She is dying and awaiting an organ transplant, according to the family's attorney, Jerry Schelley of Yuma, in the abuse case.

"The mother is terminally ill," Schelley said yesterday after the hearing. "She's always wanted to survive long enough to see the end of this."

"She wants to be supportive to her boys but she is afraid she won't survive until the end," he added.

The Chapter 11 case is expected to continue for at least six months and perhaps up to a year.

Kathy Green, of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, issued a statement at the hearing condemning the agreement with the Yuma teens, who agreed to waive their right to a trial.

She said in the statement church officials should not "require already wounded men and women to sign away any of their constitutional rights. It is immoral for church officials to in essence coerce ... crime victims to relinquish their options and their rights."

Lynne Cadigan, a Tucson attorney also representing the Yuma brothers, said the agreement to settle the matter without a trial is in their best interest.

No one objected to the settlement agreement in open court yesterday.

 
 

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